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Payment Default Risks Remain a Crucial Issue for Businesses Across Europe

Payment defaults in winter 2010 remain above 2008 levels resulting in heightened focus on credit risk management throughout Europe. Respondents to the Atradius Payment Practices survey have expressed marginal improvement in payment behaviour of domestic and foreign buyers in some markets, but in most cases these improvements may reflect the response to tighter, more diligent credit management practices and are in some cases offset by continued weakness in other areas.

The "Atradius Payment Practices Barometer", a twice-yearly survey of around 1,500 businesses in eight European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden), conducted for Atradius by the market researcher Heliview, reveals:

- German companies set the shortest payment term in the EU, Italian set the longest
Average payment terms remain relatively stable but trend is towards shorter payment terms. German companies set the shortest payment terms (19 days on average), followed by Danish and British companies (26 days). Italian companies set the longest payment terms (average 60 days).

- Domestic payment behaviour in Sweden and Denmark worsens, improves in Great Britain and France
Danish and Swedish responses suggest continued deterioration of domestic payment behaviour over the last two years compared to a more stable environment in other markets. British and French respondents sight improvement since winter 2009.

- Domestic customers, on average, paying faster than in previous survey periods
Except for in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, domestic payments have accelerated an average of 5 days from the summer 2009 survey and 12 days from the peak payment duration levels of winter 2009 and summer 2008.

- No significant change in frequency of domestic payment delays compared to summer 2009
Belgian responses showed the most significant decline in frequency of domestic payment delays, overall however no meaningful change was perceived across the eight countries surveyed.

- On average, foreign payment behaviour rated worse than in summer 2009, except for France
Notable decline in rating of foreign payments behaviour in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands in winter 2010 compared to summer 2009 survey. Only French responses showed some small improvement. Compared to summer 2008, Great Britain joins France as only countries where responses suggest some small improvement.

- Overall average frequency of foreign payment delays and payment defaults relatively unchanged
Compared to summer 2009, the most notable change in frequency of foreign payment delays was in France, which along with Germany demonstrated a little seasonality in response rates. Payment defaults increased quite substantially in winter 2010 compared to summer 2009 according to British respondents. Overall, however, there has not been much change in either foreign payment or defaults.

- Business relationships with German customers the most satisfying

- "Credit check" most important factor in decision to sell on credit terms
"Familiarity" ranked second, followed by "track record". Isidoro Unda, CEO of Atradius, commented: "Despite a gradual recovery of global economies, payment default risks are still a critical issue. Some signs of improvement are evident, but it is not the time for businesses to be complacent. Continued prudence in evaluating the payment landscape and managing credit risks is the best protection against payment defaults and potentially serious cash flow problems."


Lundi 10 Mai 2010

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